As Hippocrates said, “All disease begins in the gut.”
Hardly a day goes by without a research study or article that supports the connection between chronic disease and our own unique gut microorganisms. This research is completely changing the perception of what keeps us healthy and what makes us sick. When it comes to cutting-edge innovations in medicine, all signs point to the advances in microbiome technology.
There used to be a time when the words “gut microbiome” were met with confused looks but those days are long gone. Now everyone’s googling the latest diet to “improve their gut” or looking for the “magic” microorganisms in one-size-fits-all probiotics. Your unique gut microbiome contains trillions of microbes who interact differently than anyone else’s. If you want to optimize your health and know which foods are right for you—almost all of this information can be found in your microbiome, but the key is understanding yours and what you can do about it.
There’s a lot of tests out there that offer personalized diet recommendations. Viome’s food recommendations are supported by an in-depth analysis of your living microorganisms and their behavior on a molecular level. Think of it as the Instagram to your inner world—a snapshot of what’s happening inside your body, and each day we're getting a bigger picture.
Curious to know some things this gut test can reveal about you? You may be more than a little surprised by what you find.
1. Spinach Isn’t a Superfood For Everyone
When it comes to fruits and vegetables, most of the advice you hear is to consume more, but certain components found in a variety of healthy foods may be difficult for you individually to break down. Foods containing oxalate are often anti-inflammatory, such as spinach, bran, beets, and certain nuts; however, if you can’t digest oxalate, you may find yourself accumulating too much of it. You see, when high levels of oxalate accumulate in our bodies, they can bind together with calcium and increase your risk of kidney stones.
We have discovered that many of our users have low microbial oxalate metabolism activity. For these people, limiting foods high in oxalate like spinach and almonds might be beneficial and keep your risk of kidney stones at bay.
2. Your Microbiome Can Impact Your Blood Sugar Response
The important thing to remember is that it isn’t the food you eat but what your gut microbiome does with the food you eat that matters most when determining what foods are “healthy” for you.
In a new clinical research study from Viome, individuals consuming similar foods showed big differences in their glycemic response. This means that for some, when they consumed what they expected was a low glycemic food like a banana - their body responded like they had just eaten a piece of double-fudge triple chocolate banana bread with nuts...while others showed no effects at all.
This study shows a new perspective on how the gut microbiome may be influencing changes in people’s glycemic response and just how complex the interactions of our microbiome are between the foods we ingest and our bodies. It turns out, certain microbial activities (what the microbes are actually doing inside of you) can contribute to shifting how your body responds to foods that contain carbs by buffering the level of sugar being released into the bloodstream or even by spiking it. The glycemic response model actually uses various microbiome scores, as well as other input features to predict your glycemic response.
The Viome Recommendations Engine used the data from this study to create a model that can predict your glycemic response to foods (including fruits, vegetables, grains, and other types). Your response can help shape your food recommendations and classify them into ‘enjoy’ or ‘minimize’ or other categories for you individually.
3. Here’s Why That Broccoli You’re Eating Might Make You Gassy
There are tons of good reasons to increase your vegetable intake, but some people might be avoiding a healthy portion of broccoli because of those gassy side effects. Cruciferous vegetables like cauliflower or broccoli are full of nutrients like vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants like glucosinolates. Although these antioxidants can be potent warriors against illness, many people feel uncomfortable and bloated after consuming vegetables rich with glucosinolates. If your Viome test shows highly active pathways that result in sulfide gas, glucosinolates may not be good for you, because they can be turned into more sulfide gas by your gut microbiome. In such cases, foods like broccoli - rich with glucosinolates - may do more harm than good.
We've analyzed tens of thousands of people and learned that >30% of our users have high pathway activity for microbial sulfide gas production. Typically, preserved meats, dried fruits, and some alcoholic beverages can rapidly increase sulfide gas when these microbial activities are too high and can cause a “leaky gut” condition. Leaky gut occurs when your intestinal lining doesn’t have “healthy boundaries,” with gaps allowing certain microbes and particles to slip from your digestive tract into the bloodstream. This starts a chain reaction from the barrier of the gut breaking down to causing low-grade chronic inflammation; if untreated it can lead to various health conditions.
If your test reveals your sulfide production pathway activity is too high, eating foods like broccoli, cauliflower, or brussels sprouts can add to the irritation of your gut lining, which is why you may see some of these foods on your “avoid” or “minimize” lists.
4. Your Microbes Might Be Asking You to Table the Salt
Most people know that consuming too much salt can increase your blood pressure and heighten your risk for diseases like hypertension and stroke. However, we can now see that salt can also impact the health of your gut microbiome. Certain beneficial or probiotic microbes found in our gut microbiome can find it difficult to colonize in a high salt environment, while other not-so-good microbes (that actually contribute to gas production) thrive in high-salt environments. When your gut balance gets swayed due to high salt concentrations, this situation may promote more harmful bacteria or higher harmful activities to ensue.
Additionally, if Viome sees that your salt stress pathway activity is high, this might be a sign that your hydration levels may be low. We can now assess these activity levels from your gut test results and offer more personalized recommendations for you in order to help you rebalance your gut microbiome health.
Learn more here about how salt can affect your gut microbiome.
5. Your Body May be Passing On Those Berry Benefits
Polyphenol antioxidants in foods are considered very healthy, but you may not be getting their full benefit. Certain microbes can actually help us gain access to more beneficial compounds by converting them into antioxidants our body can readily absorb. One example is a polyphenol called ellagic acid. Viome can detect if your gut microbiome is metabolizing ellagic acid and converting it into urolithin A, an easily absorbable antioxidant. Without the microbes to do this conversion, you will not benefit from ellagic acid in foods such as walnuts, raspberries, pomegranate, blackberries, pecans, and cranberries.
We've found that many users do not actually receive the anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits from eating foods that contain ellagic acid. Are YOU reaping those benefits?
6. When You Need To Take It Easy On the Seafood
When it comes to party appetizers, shrimp cocktail is a well-known favorite, but consuming large amounts of this hors d'oeuvre may cause problems for your gut microbiome. Various microbes are known to digest compounds called purines, typically found in a variety of meats, seafood, sodas, and beer. When metabolized, purines can get converted to uric acid and can increase your risk of developing gout. If your results show you have a high level of uric acid production activity, you might benefit from reducing the portion of these purine containing foods you’re eating until these patterns change in your gut microbiome.
Fortunately, we can analyze your uric acid production pathway activity and give you proper recommendations if your gut microbiome is found likely to contribute to your risk for uric acid accumulation.
7. You May Be Consuming More Protein Than You Can Handle
Protein is necessary for you. It helps build muscle and provide energy, but if your microbes are working extra hard to break it down, it can have some negative consequences.
Your microbes can even tell us whether or not you are digesting your proteins efficiently. Protein digestion begins when you first start chewing and continues down through your stomach and into your small intestine. If the protein is not fully broken down by the end of this process, your microbes will digest the excess protein available in your colon and may convert it into harmful byproducts like ammonia.
The time of day you consume protein is actually important and can make a difference for your digestive system and gut microbiome. Having a protein-dense meal for dinner (like steak or turkey, and other food sources) may not allow enough time for all of it to be digested before you fall asleep, which is when your digestive system metabolizes and moves things along less efficiently.
Before you grab some digestive enzymes or motility agents, simply consider getting your protein from smaller servings earlier in the day. You can also change the way you prepare the food (that will make it easier on you to digest) and the type of protein sources you pick. For example, some sprouts can offer you protein building blocks in a more easily digestible form and at the same time help your overall digestion with different fibers and digestion-promoting properties found in bitter foods.
If we see that your active microbial protein fermentation levels are too high, your recommendations may advise you to change your approach to evening meals. Fortunately, there are a number of helpful meal ideas that can support your protein digestion.
8. Inflammation in Your Body May Originate in Your Gut
When we think about joint pain and chronic discomfort, we tend to attribute it to “getting older,” but maybe your gut microbiome is just making you feel older. When gut inflammation occurs, it can send signals or triggers to your immune system and lead to systemic inflammation. If you have a condition with “-itis” in it, it’s possible that if you balance your microbiome, your symptoms may be reduced.
Certain gut microbes can produce a proinflammatory molecule named Lipopolysaccharide (LPS). If enough activity takes place leading to LPS production, this can inflame your GI system and promote the development of leaky gut. Leaky gut can permit proinflammatory molecules including LPS to enter the bloodstream and activate your immune response. Consequently, you may be dealing with some serious inflammation. If your immune system goes on the warpath, inflammation can extend to your joints and other body parts as well. Even when it is only a low-grade inflammation, when it persists and becomes chronic it is also a known culprit in the development of many autoimmune and inflammatory conditions.
If you’ve been taking supplements or NSAIDs to reduce your pain, you may want to focus on balancing your gut microbiome first. By diversifying and balancing your active microbial populations and their functions, you may help in reducing the inflammatory triggers coming from your gut microbiome that could be contributing to the pain.
Viome’s recommendations are meant to help you balance out the inflammatory functions in your gut microbiome, which, in turn, can help stabilize your overall inflammation.
9. Your Gut Environment is a War Zone
If you’re having an issue with your co-worker, you might just take a “sick day” rather than confront them. However, our gut microbiome can’t just take a self-care day and binge-watch Grey’s Anatomy: instead they have to suit up and go to war if they want to make it out alive.
Your microbiome is a living ecosystem inside your gut. Microbial communities fight ‘turf wars’, compete for food sources, run from threats, and communicate in their own ways with their molecular signals if there is danger or unfavorable conditions. They actually have their own equivalents of “fight or flight” or “freeze” responses.
With our technology we can actually see this activity from the data that we analyze about your gut microbiome. Contrary to popular belief, most of your microbes are not all “good” or “bad”; they can be varying degrees of each. Microbes can be considered beneficial or harmful depending on the situation, how they are interacting or responding to the environment in your gut, and what nutrients are available.
Sounds a lot like us humans, doesn’t it?
There are microbes that are referred to as “opportunists.” That is because when the opportunity is right they may strike and try to take over. It can make other microbes have to fend for themselves and create a war zone in your gut. When our microbes are at war, they can secrete certain toxins to defend themselves or take over. Some of these toxic “bullets” might disrupt your gut lining, trigger an immune response, or cause an inflammatory environment in your gut.
Viome can pinpoint and monitor these types of aggressive behaviors by assessing the activity levels of specific pathways (like virulence, chemotaxis, and biofilm formation). Before changing your diet again, it might be time to first check in with your gut microbes and make sure their ecosystem is at peace.
10. Butyrate Is Your Gut Shield Defense, But Do You Have Enough?
Speaking of a microbial war zone, certain metabolites of your gut microbiota can help beef up your gut lining defense. Some microbes in your gut can take dietary fiber that we can’t digest and convert it into butyrate, a beneficial short chain fatty acid. Interestingly, butyrate is the favorite food source of our colonocytes – or the human cells that line our digestive tract. When our colonocytes have a healthy serving of butyrate, it promotes the health of our gut lining and combats leaky gut.
Additionally, butyrate can help stabilize your blood sugar balance and control your appetite. You could say butyrate production gives your body a natural shield against gut illness. Viome not only monitors how active your microbes are at producing butyrate in your gut, but also suggests ways to improve your microbial production of butyrate. By providing this unique perspective, Viome can help you improve your gut health by recommending ways to either add the good guys – through certain probiotics and fermented foods (which, surprise, aren’t always good for everyone) – or feed the good guys – by giving these microbes the foods they need like artichokes to promote butyrate production.
Viome’s supplement recommendation logic uses the same principles and may also include butyrate ala carte for you, depending on your gut and microbiome needs.
It’s All About the Balance
There are no gut microbiome “types” and no one microbiome is the same.
You are probably already familiar with the notion that you can promote gut health by increasing microbial richness and diversity. However, it’s not all about the number and variety of organisms you have, but also about the diversity and balance of functions they perform. The more active microbial types you have and the more beneficial functions are taking place, the more adaptability and resilience you will have for your microbiome, your gut, and your health.
With Viome’s gut microbiome scores, you can identify which functions need to be manipulated for you to attain and maintain this healthy balance with personalized diet and supplement recommendations.
The Bottom Line
Given the research emerging daily about the importance of the gut microbiome on your quality of life, prioritizing its health is essential. We are continuously working to better understand the microbial functions inside of your gut so that we can provide you with more valuable insight and give you the tools to take control of your own health. Knowing what is actively going on inside of your gut and following a diet personalized for you empowers you to optimize your health in the most biologically-informed ways. Discover what your gut has been trying to tell you. Your health could depend on it.
If you haven't already received your Gut Intelligence Test, order now to get started!